On the Miserable State of
Relapsing Sinners


The Resurrection of Christ - by RUBENS, Pieter Pauwel - from O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

 

Be not Affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was Crucified:
He is Risen, He is not here - Matthew 16:6

 

On the Miserable State of Relapsing Sinners

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

I Hope, my Dear Christians, that as Christ is Risen, you have, in this Holy Pascal Time (Easter), gone to Confession, and have Risen from your Sins. But, attend to what Saint Jerome teaches - that Many begin Well, but Few Persevere. "Incipere multorum est, perseverare paucorum". Now the Holy Ghost declares, that he who 'Perseveres' in Holiness to Death, and not they who 'Begin' a Good Life, shall be Saved. "But he that shall Persevere to the End, he shall be Saved" - Matthew 24:13. The Crown of Paradise, says Saint Bernard, is 'Promised' to those who Commence, but is 'Given' only to those who Persevere. "Inchoantibus praemium promittitur, perseverantibus datur". Since, then, Brethren, you have Resolved-to give yourselves to God, listen-to the Admonition-of the Holy Ghost: "SON, when thou comest to the Service of God, Stand in Justice and in Fear, and Prepare thy Soul for Temptation" - Ecclesiasticus 2:1. Do not Imagine that you shall have no-more Temptations, but Prepare yourself for the Combat, and Guard against a Relapse into the Sins you have Confessed; for, if you Lose the Grace of God again, you shall find it Difficult to Recover it. I intend this day to show you the Miserable State of Relapsing Sinners; that is, of those who after Confession, Miserably Fall Back into the Sins which they Confessed.

Since, then, Dearly Beloved Christians, you have made a Sincere Confession of your Sins, Jesus Christ says to you what He said to the Paralytic: "Behold thou art made Whole: Sin no more, lest some Worse Thing happen to thee" - John 5:14. By the Confessions which you have made, your Souls are Healed, but not as yet Saved; for, if you Return-to Sin, you shall be again Condemned to Hell, and the Injury caused by the Relapse, shall be far Greater than that which you Sustained-from your Former Sins. "Audis", says Saint Bernard, "recidere quam incedere, esse deterius". If a Man recover-from a Mortal Disease, and afterwards fall-back into it, he shall have Lost so much of his Natural Strength, that his Recovery-from the Relapse, will be Impossible. This is precisely what happens to Relapsing Sinners; returning-to the Vomit - that is, taking back-into the Soul, the Sins Vomited-forth in Confession - they shall be so Weak, that they will become Objects-of Amusement to the Devil. Saint Anselm says, that the Devil acquires a certain Dominion-over them, so that he makes them Fall, and Fall-again, as he Wishes. Hence the Miserable Beings become like Birds, with which a Child amuses himself. He allows them, from time-to-time, to fly-to a certain-height, and then draws them back-again when he pleases, by means of a Cord, made Fast-to them. Such is the Manner in which the Devil treats Relapsing Sinners. "Sed quia ab hoste tenentur, volantes in eadem vitia dejiciuntur".

Saint Paul tells us, that we have to Contend not with Men like ourselves, made of Flesh and Blood, but with the Princes of Hell. "For our Wrestling is not against Flesh and Blood; but against Principalities and Powers" - Ephesians 6:12. By these Words, he wishes to Admonish us that we have not Strength to Resist the Powers of Hell, and that to Resist them, the Divine Aid is absolutely Necessary; with it, we shall, according-to the same Apostle, be able to do all Things, and shall Conquer all Enemies. "I can do all these things in Him, Who Strengtheneth me" - Philippians 4:13. But this Assistance, God gives only to those who Pray for it. "Ask, and it shall be Given you: Seek, and you shall Find" - Matthew 7:7. They who Neglect to Ask, do not Receive. Let us then be Careful not to Trust-in our Resolutions; if we place our Confidence in them, we shall be Lost. When we are Tempted to Relapse into Sin, we must put our Whole Trust in the Assistance of God, Who Infallibly Hears all who Invoke His Aid.

"He that thinketh himself to Stand, let him take Heed, lest he Fall" - 1Corinthians 10:12. They who are in the State of Grace should, according to Saint Paul, be careful not to Fall into Sin, particularly if they have been ever Guilty of Mortal Sins; for a Relapse into Sin, brings Greater Evil on the Soul. "And the Last State of that Man, becomes Worse than the First" - Luke 11:26.

We are told in the Holy Scriptures, that the Enemy "will offer Victims to his Drag, and he will Sacrifice to his Net: because through them, his Portion is made Fat, and his Meat Dainty" - Habakkuk 1:16. In explaining this Passage, Saint Jerome says that the Devil seeks to Catch-in his Nets all Men, in-order-to Sacrifice them to the Divine Justice, by their Damnation. Sinners, who are Already in the Net, he endeavors-to Wind-with New Chains; but the Friends of God are his Dainty Meats. To make them his Slaves, and to Rob them of all they have Acquired, he Prepares Stronger Snares. "The more Fervently", says Denis the Carthusian, "a Soul endeavors to Serve God, the more Fiercely does the Adversary rage against her". The Closer the Union of a Christian with God, and the Greater his Efforts to Serve God, the more the Enemy is Armed-with Rage, and the more Strenuously he Labors to enter-into the Soul, from which he has been Expelled. "When", says the Redeemer, "the Unclean Spirit is gone out of a Man, he walketh through Places without Water, seeking Rest; and not finding, he saith: I will Return into my House whence I came out" - Luke 11:24. Should he Succeed-in Reentering, he will not enter Alone, but will bring with him Associates to Fortify himself in the Soul of which he has Again, got Possession. Thus, the Second (2nd) Destruction of that MiserableSoul shall be Greater than the First (1st). "And the Last State of that Man becomes Worse than the First" - Luke 11:26.

The Red-hot Sword of Divine Vengeance, Symbolizes Chastisement,
and the Lily at Christ's Right Hand, Symbolizes His Blessing and Forgiveness
 

To God, the Relapse of Ungrateful Christians is very Displeasing. Because, after He had Called and Pardoned them with so much Love, He sees that, Forgetful-of His Mercies to them, they again Turn their Back upon Him, and Renounce His Grace. "For if My Enemy had Reviled Me, I would Verily have Borne with it. And if he that Hated Me had spoken Great Things against Me, I would perhaps have Hidden Myself from him. But thou, a Man of One Mind, my Guide, and my Familiar, who didst take Sweetmeats together with Me" - Psalm 54:13-15. Had My Enemy, says the Lord, Insulted Me, I would have felt Less Pain; but to see you Rebel-against Me, and after I had Restored My Friendship to you, and after I had made you Sit-at My Table, to eat My Own Flesh, Grieves Me to the Heart, and Impels Me to take Vengeance on you. Miserable the Man who, after having Received so many Graces from God, becomes the Enemy, from being the Friend-of God. He shall find the Sword of Divine Vengeance prepared to Chastise him. "And he that Passeth over, from Justice to Sin, God hath Prepared such an One for the Sword" - Ecclesiasticus 26:27.

Some of you may say: If I Relapse, I will soon Rise again; for I will Immediately Prepare myself for Confession. To those who Speak in this Manner, shall happen what Befell Samson. He allowed himself to be Deluded by Delilah; while he was Asleep, she Cut-off his Hair, and his Strength Departed-from him. Awaking from Sleep, he said: "I will go out as I did before, and Shake myself, not knowing that the Lord was Departed from him" - Judges 16:20. He expected-to Deliver himself, as on Former Occasions, from the Hands-of the Philistines. But, because his Strength had Departed-from him, he was made their Slave. They Pulled-out his Eyes, and Binding him in Chains, Shut him up in Prison. After Relapsing into Sin, a Christian Loses the Strength necessary-to Resist Temptations, because the Lord Departs from him. He Abandons him by 'Withholding' the Efficacious Aid, necessary-to 'Overcome' Temptations; and the Miserable Man remains Blind and Abandoned, in his Sin.

"No Man, putting his Hand to the Plough, and Looking-back, is Fit for the Kingdom of God" - Luke 9:62. Behold a Faithful Picture of a Relapsing Sinner. Mark the Words, No Man: No one, says Jesus Christ, who Begins-to Serve Me, and Looks-back, is Fit to enter Heaven. According to Origen, the addition-of a New Sin to the One Committed before, is like the Addition-of a New Wound, to a Wound just Inflicted. "Cum peccatum peccatoadjicitur, sicut vulnus vulneri". If a Wound be Inflicted on any Member of the Body, that Member certainly Loses its Original Vigor. But, if it receives a Second (2nd) Wound, it shall Lose all Strength and Motion, without Hope of Recovery. The Great Evil of a Relapse into Sin is, that it Renders the Soul so Weak, that She has but Little Strength to Resist Temptation. For, says Saint Thomas, "After a Fault has been Remitted, the Dispositions Produced by the Preceding Acts, Remain" - The Stain of Sin. Every Sin, though Pardoned, always leaves a Wound on the Soul. When, to this Wound, a New One is added, the Soul becomes so Weak that, without a Special and Extraordinary Grace from God, it is Impossible for Her to Conquer Temptations.

Let us then, Brethren, Tremble at the Thought-of Relapsing into Sin, and let us Beware of Availing ourselves of the Mercy of God, to continue-to Offend Him. "He", says Saint Augustine, "Who has Promised Pardon to Penitents, has Promised Repentance to no one". God has indeed Promised-to Pardon all who Repent-of their Sins; but He has not Promised to anyone the Grace to Repent-of the Faults which he has committed. Sorrow for Sin is a Pure Gift of God; if He withholds it, how will you Repent? And without Repentance, how can you obtain Pardon? Ah! the Lord will not allow Himself to be Mocked. "Be not Deceived", says Saint Paul, "God is not Mocked" - Galations 6:7. Saint Isidore tells us that the Man who Repeats the Sin, which he before Detested, is not Penitent, but a Scoffer of God's Majesty. "Irrisor, et non poenitens est, pui adhue agit, quod poenitet". And Tertullian teaches, that, where there is no Amendment, Repentance is not Sincere. "Ubi emendatio nulla, poenitentia nulla".

"Be Penitent", said Saint Peter in a Discourse-to the Jews, "and be Converted, that your Sins may be Blotted out" - Acts 3:19. Many Repent, but are not Converted. They feel a certain Sorrow for the Irregularities of their Lives, but do not Sincerely return-to God. They go to Confession, Strike their Breasts, and Promise-to Amend; but they do not make a Firm Resolution to Change their Lives. They who Resolve Firmly on a Change of Life, Persevere, or at least Preserve themselves for a considerable Time in the Grace of God. But they who Relapse into Sin, soon after Confession, show, as Saint Peter says, that they Repent, but are not Converted; and such Persons shall in the End, Die an Unhappy Death. "Plerumque", says Saint Gregory, "mali sic compunguntur ad justitiam, sicut plerumque boni tentantur ad culpam". As the Just have Frequent Temptations to Sin, but Yield not to them, because their Will Abhors them, so Sinners feel certain Impulses to Virtue; but these are not Sufficient-to Produce a True Conversion. The Wise Man tells us that Mercy shall be shown to him who Confesses his Sins and Abandons them, but not to those who Confess their Transgressions. "He that Hideth his Sins, shall not Prosper: but he that shall Confess, and Forsake them, shall obtain Mercy" - Proverbs 28:13. He, then, who does not Give-up, but Returns to Sin after Confession, shall not Obtain Mercy from God, but shall Die a Victim of Divine Justice. He may expect to Die the Death of a certain Young Englishman, who, as is related in the History of England, was in the Habit of Relapsing into Sins against Purity. He always Fell Back into these Sins after Confession. At the Hour of Death, he Confessed his Sins, and Died in a Manner which gave Reason to Hope for his Salvation. But, while a Holy Priest was Celebrating or Preparing-to Celebrate Mass for his Departed Soul, the Miserable Young Man appeared to him, and said that he was Damned. He added that, at the Point of Death, being Tempted to Indulge a Bad Thought, he felt himself, as-it-were, Forced-to Consent, and as he was Accustomed to do in the Former Part of his Life, he Yielded-to the Temptation, and thus was Lost.

Is there then no Means-of Salvation for Relapsing Sinners? I do not say this; but I adopt the Maxim of Physicans. "In magnis morbis a magnis initium medendi sumere oportet". In Malignant Diseases, Powerful Remedies are Necessary. To Return-to the Way of Salvation, the Relapsing Sinner must do Great Violence to himself. "The Kingdom of Heaven Suffereth Violence, and the Violent bear it away" - Matthew 11:12. In the Beginning-of a New Life, the Relapsing Sinner must do Violence to himself, in-order-to Root-out the Bad Habits which he has Contracted, and to Acquire Habits of Virtue; for when he has Acquired Habits of Virtue, the Observance-of the Divine Commands shall become Easy, and even Sweet. The Lord once said to Saint Bridget, that, to those who Bear-with Fortitude, the First (1st) Punctures-of the Thorns which they Experience-in the Attacks-of the Senses, in Avoiding Occasions of Sin, and in Withdrawing-from Dangerous Conversations, these Thorns are by-degree, changed-into Roses.

 

But, to use the Necessary Violence, and to Lead a Life of Regularity, you must Adopt the Proper Means; otherwise, you shall do Nothing. After Rising in the Morning, you must make Acts of Thanksgiving, of the Love of God, and of Oblation-of the Actions-of the Day. You must also Renew your Resolution never to Offend God, and Beg-of Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother to Preserve you from Sin during the Day. Afterwards, make your Meditation , and hear Mass. During the Day, make a Spiritual Lecture and a visit to the Most Holy Sacrament. In the Evening, say the Rosary and make an Examination of Conscience. Receive the Holy Communion at least Once a Week, or more Frequently if your Spiritual Director advises you. Be careful to Choose a Confessor, to whom you will Regularly go to Confession. It is also very useful to make a Spiritual Retreat every Year in some Religious House. Honor the Mother of God every Day by some particular Devotion, and by Fasting on every Saturday. She is the Mother of Perseverance, and Promises to Obtain it, for all who Serve her. "They that Work by me, shall not Sin" - Ecclesiasticus 24:30. Above all, it is Necessary to ask of God every Morning the Gift of Perseverance, and to Beg-of the Blessed Virgin to Obtain it for you, and particularly in the Time-of Temptation, by Invoking the Name of Jesus and Mary, as-long-as the Temptation lasts. Happy the Man who will continue to Act in this Manner, and shall be found so doing when Jesus Christ shall come to Judge him. "Blessed is that Servant, whom when his Lord shall come, he shall find so doing" - Matthew 24:46.

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Prayer

O Jesus, my Redeemer, I return Thee Thanks, for not having Taken me out of this Life whilst I was Thy Enemy. How many Years have Passed, since I Deserved to be in Hell! Had I Died on such a Day, or on such a Night, what would have become of me for all Eternity? My God, I return Thee Thanks. I Accept-of Death, as a Satisfaction-for my Sins, and I Accept-of it the Manner in which it may Please Thee, to send it to me; but since Thou hast Waited for me until now, Oh, Wait for me yet a little longer. Suffer me, therefore, that I may Lament my Sorrow a little. Give me Time to Weep over my Offences against Thee, before Thou Comest to Judge me.

I will no longer Resist Thy Calls. Who knows, but these Words, which I have just Read, are Thy Last Call to me? I Acknowledge that I do not Deserve Mercy: Thou hast Pardoned me so often, and I have again Ungratefully Offended Thee. A Contrite and Humble Heart, O God, Thou wilt not Despise. Ah, Lord, since Thou canst not Despise a Humble and Penitent Heart, Behold the Traitor who, Humbled and Repentant, has Recourse to Thee. Cast me not away from Thy Face. Thou hast said, Him that cometh to Me, I will not Cast-out. It is True that I have Offended Thee more than others, because I have been Favored, more than others, with Light and Grace; but the Blood Thou hast Shed for me, gives me Courage, and Proffers Pardon to me, if I Repent. Yes, O my Sovereign Good, I do Repent with my Whole Soul, for having Insulted Thee. Pardon me, and give me Grace to Love Thee for the Future. I have long enough Offended Thee. As for the Remainder of my Life, no, my Jesus, I will not Spend it in Offending Thee; I will Spend it Wholly, in Weeping over the Displeasure I have given Thee, and in Loving Thee with all my Heart, O God, Worthy of Infinite Love.

O Mary, my Hope, Pray to Jesus for me.

Amen

 

Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph
Patron of Departing Souls

This Prayer was found in the Fiftieth Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles, when he was going into Battle. Whoever shall Read this Prayer, or Hear it, or Keep it about themselves, shall never Die a Sudden Death, or be Drowned, nor shall Poison take-effect on them; neither shall they Fall into the Hands of the Enemy, nor shall they be Burned in any Fire, nor shall they be Overpowered in Battle.

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O Saint Joseph, whose Protection is so Great, so Strong, so Prompt before the Throne of God, I Place in you, all my Interests and Desires.

O Saint Joseph, do Assist me by your Powerful Intercession, and Obtain for me from your Divine Son, all Spiritual Blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having Engaged here below your Heavenly Power, I may Offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never Weary Contemplating you and Jesus Asleep in your Arms; I dare not approach while He Reposes near your Heart. Press Him in my name and Kiss His Fine Head for me, and ask Him to Return the Kiss when I Draw my Dying Breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, Pray for us.

Amen

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Many Miracles have been attributed to this Daily Prayer.
Make this Prayer known everywhere . . .

 

Consecration to God thru Mary